Murray’s ‘Da’ owned the stage as Lake perform Leonard comedy

Joe Murray who played the role of ‘Da’ by the Hugh Leonard, presented by Lake Productions

By Tom Dayton

Photos by Pat Shortall

In 2022, I accidentally came across a theatre production by a company I had not heard of.

The Company was Lake productions, a Kilkenny based group, and the show was a Jimmy Murphy play called The Kings of the Kilburn High Road.

To say I was gobsmacked would be an understatement. I was literally blown away. I had seldom, if ever, seen a group perform with such energy and commitment to script. As a member of Trinity College Players I had seen and performed in numerous productions so I would like to think my standard of adjudication was on the upper level of the ‘clap-o-meter’ scale.

I remember leaving the Thomastown venue that night very much on a high.

A quick perusal of their programme (which in itself was excellent) told me that they had previously produced Trad by Mark O’Doherty and After Sarah Miles by Michael Hiliard Mulcahy.

Their 2023 advertisement for a production of Moll by JB Keane was prompt enough for me to book my ticket.

I had, two weeks prior to the Thomastown Moll, attended that show in one of the bigger venues in our capital city. There was one major difference between the Dublin production and the Lake presentation.

The Lake players performed it as a serious story, which allowed us, the audience, to laugh heartily while the ‘Dubs’ played it for laughs, which did not work.

And therein lies the difference.

And so Last Friday, I drove a 40 mile round trip to Thomastown concert Hall to see ‘Da’, the latest offering from the Kilkenny group.


Da by Hugh Leonard

The play is set in Dalkey in 1968, and times and places remembered, and is largely autobiographical. Its protagonist, an expatriate writer named Charlie Tynan, represents Leonard, who, like the character, was adopted. The play deals with Charlie’s relationships with the two father figures in his life: “Da” – his adoptive father, and Mr. Drumm, a cynical civil servant who becomes his mentor.

And it is fair to say that the group has yet again, come up trumps. And some.

Joe Murray took on the role of Da with Michael Hayes his son and Sean Hackett playing the son as a younger person.

Claire Henriques plays the ever patient wife of Da. This is the same Henriques who had people rolling in the aisles last year in Moll.

Definitely a feather in her cap of versatility.

And there was some lovely duo scenes.

Da and the mother; Mary Tate and Young Charlie; Charlie now and Oliver; Mrs Prynne and Da; and Mr Drumm and Young Charlie.

If I was to highlight one aspect of the production it would be how the cast played the family scenes. It was executed excellently showing the highs and lows of family life. One could feel the tension at times and the love, albeit in small doses.

Murray, Hayes, Henriques and Hackett bounced off each other with fantastic energy leaving one in no doubt that the casting director got the right actors for these parts.


Experience shows

Joe Murray, in the title role, delivered an exceptional performance and from the moment he arrived on stage he took control of the surroundings. Obviously a very experienced actor, his characterization of the varying ages of Da, his grovelling to the gentry and his ability to deliver a comedy line was a wonderful lesson in acting. There is little more gratifying than an actor allowing the character to take control and Murray executed this with gusto.

It is unfair on the rest of the play to highlight one scene, but the five minute section with his son (Michael Hayes) where Da appeared to be entering early stages of dementia, was executed with great elan. This was complemented greatly by both actors.

I do believe that the lady next to me shed a tear on a couple of occasions, especially in act two.

She apologized at the final curtain saying the character reminded her of her own father.

She needn’t have worried.

She wasn’t on her own.

As a matter of fact, a small speck of dust may have made its way into my own lacrimal glands on a couple of occasions.

Cameo roles played by Derek Dooley, Dee Gibney, Anne Murray and Declan Taylor were performed with great class.

Suffice to say that when they left the stage after a short appearance, one wished that they would return later in the show. Surely a good sign.

Well done Lake Productions. Looking forward to the next outing.

The wonderful set was designed by Siobhán Hegarty while lighting was in the hands of Brendan Maguire. The show was directed by Gerry Cody.

I took a moment during the interval to read a programme note by Willie Egan, an Adolescent Counsellor from Kilkenny. His ‘Beneath the surface’ look at the play was most informative.


Concert Hall

I must add a note on how impressed I was with the venue.

There is a wonderful programme of events coming in the next few months, featuring both music and theatre,

I’m not surprised that more and more groups are availing of the space.

Up coming concerts organised by Music In Kilkenny include In Praise of St Cecilia , Sestina Music and Baroque Ensemble, while on the theatre front we can look forward to

‘By the Bog of Cats’ and ‘The Country Boy’

It is a great venue. and very comfortable, with the obligatory cup of tea and a few biscuits at the interval. Although off the biscuits for Lent I made an exception. You couldn’t refuse.

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